Business Columns & Blogs

Nancy Napier: How to be more interesting

A very accomplished young manager looking to boost his career asked a question that startled me.


“How do I become a more interesting person?”


I was curious about what he had in mind.


He was referring to friends and colleagues who have hobbies like kayaking in Alaska, helicoptering ski, or biking in exotic locations. In his view, since these people do these activities that are far from home and sound cool, they seem interesting.


“I used to do some of those things. But now my wife and I have two small children and we don’t venture far from home. I’m not sure I’m interesting anymore.”


So who is interesting? I’ve always assumed that the most interesting people were the ones who were most interested…in something other than themselves and they communicate that to others. For me, those people fall into two categories.


The first type have a passion that consumes them. But more importantly, they are able to convey that passion to those who may have no interest about it. In other words, they’re able to infect curiosity in others. It’s magic when it happens.


When a master pulls it off, I feel like I’ve been in the presence of a genius. One evening over dinner, a friend started talking about numismatics, or coin collecting. I remember thinking, oh dear, we’re in for a long evening. But within two minutes, he had me.


Granted, he was a professor who had won awards for his teaching. That evening, I was lucky enough to experience some of what his students did. In moments, he made a boring sounding hobby come alive for me. If I recall, he probably hooked me right off the bat with a question like, “When was that penny made? You see that the Lincoln Memorial is on the backside, but can you see the tiny statue of Lincoln in there?” He made this hobby into a detective story, a way to connect people from around the world, and a way to learn about history that was fun. In a sense, he gave me an “insider’s” secret view of the topic that grabbed me, at least for that evening.


I think a second way that people seem interesting to me is because they are interested in me. Who can resist the person who not just seems but shows true interest in us? I have relatives and friends who, when I call or visit, do almost all of the talking. At the end of our chat, the person often comments about what a great conversation we have had and how interesting it was. I was interested in them and thus they became interesting people. When I focus on finding out about the other person, I learn about topics that would normally be out of my realm, from bone fishing to bow hunting, fantasy football to Buddhism.


So perhaps if we become curious, we might become interesting?